TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan said Tuesday that contingency plans are in place for its outlying islands in the South China Sea, following a Japanese media report that the Chinese military is planning to conduct drills in the area to simulate the seizure of one of the islands.
Japan’s Kyodo News reported that day that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is planning to hold a large-scale beach landing exercise near China’s Hainan Province in August, with a scenario of capturing the Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands), currently controlled by Taiwan.
The report, which did not cite its sources, said the Dongsha Islands are significant to Beijing as they sit at a strategic point, because Chinese warships have to sail by them when going to the Pacific from Hainan Province.
Responding to this, Maj. Gen. Lin Wen-huang (林文皇), who heads an operations and planning office at the Ministry of National Defense (MND), said at a press conference that the ministry is monitoring movements of “hostile forces” through intelligence gathering and surveillance.
He made clear that the MND has contingency plans in place for the South China Sea and that work to strengthen combat readiness and defense preparedness on Taiping Island and the Dongsha Islands will not stop.
Taiwan, along with Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, claim ownership of the South China Sea region, either in part or wholly. At present, Taiwan controls Taiping, the biggest island feature in the South China Sea, and the Dongsha Islands, with coast guard personnel deployed on them.
Lin said that although those deployed there are not military, they possess the same skills and capabilities as marines.
In a legislative session on April 30, National Security Bureau Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) revealed that there are about 200 men and women guarding Taiping Island, equipped with light and heavy weaponry. He did not mention the Dongsha Islands.
Meanwhile, Qi Yue-yi (亓樂義), a Taiwanese military expert specialized in PLA issues, told CNA that China could have been preparing to target the whole of the South China Sea with the reported drill, but instead selected the area near its own Hainan Province so as not to alarm other claimants in the region.